Verna O’Neill

Verna is the vibrant general manager (GM) at Community Futures Sunrise. She has worked for Community Futures (CF) programs for most of her career, both as an employee and as a contractor at different points. She has been the general manager since 2013.

Her day-to-day work centres around driving the CF corporate mission to support the development of rural entrepreneurs. She loves being a part of CF Sunrise, an exciting organization with a team that works very hard to assist small businesses as they reach for their business goals.

Verna has an active role in overseeing the office’s programs that provide loans, advice and support to entrepreneurs in the region. She remarks, “no two days are alike! My role as a GM is to provide a road map to our staff, so we help our clients and move in the strategic direction set by our Board of Directors.”

The CF Sunrise team keeps close contact with all its entrepreneurs. With the COVID-19 pandemic, regular phone calls have become a mainstay to keeping in touch with the businesses in order to provide the highest level of support. The work of CF offices, local Chambers of Commerce, and other service agencies to provide a forum for entrepreneurs to connect with each other and share ideas is very powerful.

Businesses have embraced the online support offered by each dedicated member of the CF team. Small businesses, especially at the beginning stages, have always relied on the face-to-face workshops and one-on-one support from CF. Businesses have also had to be innovative in their processes to adapt to the challenges that the pandemic presents.

As a result, the adoption of e-commerce has been accelerated drastically, a trend that Verna believes is here to stay. Many great ideas that have helped small businesses to pivot during the pandemic have come from the move toward e-commerce. The pandemic has also resulted in a growing trend in local communities supporting tourism close to home and shopping at local businesses. This level of community engagement is a great manifestation of CF’s core values and mission.

The pandemic has also put the CF Sunrise board and staff in the unique position of working hard to make Regional Relief and Recovery Funds available to entrepreneurs in the region. These loans for small business have helped entrepreneurs to cover some of the short-term costs that can’t be deferred. It has been quite a challenge for several small businesses to remain viable during this pandemic.

We asked Verna what has surprised her most about working with CF. She responded: “The creativity of business owners has always surprised and inspired me.” She appreciates being able to bounce around new ideas during coffee meetings or connecting entrepreneurs with the resources they need to succeed. She finds the process of learning new things and sharing ideas very gratifying.

CF offices do an excellent job of keeping in touch with clients and assessing the needs of entrepreneurs in different communities. The CF Sunrise team includes a regional economic development coordinator. This staff member is tasked with helping to set the stage for a positive economic environment where entrepreneurs can do business effectively. This work has been crucial for the Sunrise region.

When all is said and done, Verna enjoys making a difference. Successful clients help to motivate her work and she makes an effort to celebrate every win they have! The board and staff at CF Sunrise are fantastic to work with.

When she’s not at work, you can find Verna spending time outdoors and keeping active. She is also an active volunteer in her community and loves to learn. She’s also a self-confessed bookworm.

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